The Bag

Photo prompt: © Ted Strutz

 

She stopped by to check on her elderly neighbor and saw a bulging bag on the curb. Odd. Trash-collection was two days away. Ethel could get ticketed.

She grabbed the bag. The thing was heavy! How did the ancient women lug this? She carried it up the path to the door.

“Ethel?” she knocked. “It’s Belinda.”

Silence. Was Ethel sleeping? Belinda knocked again. Waited. Rang the bell. Used her key.

There was no one home. All personal effects gone.

Heart pounding, Belinda rushed to untie the bag.

A mess of photos spilled out, scattering Ethel’s life to the ground.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Forget The ABC

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“If you knew where it goes, would you follow?”

Efran peeked down the leaf-strewn stone shaft and rough steps. “I can see where it goes,” he pointed. “There.”

Jerow shook his head. It could be difficult to know with Efran, whose disposition tended to be ebullient to the point of daft, whether the lad was deliberately vexing or totally clueless. “Yes, you see what looks like the bottom of the stairs, but what’s behind it? Where does it go?”

Efran took anther step and leaned closer to the crack between the stones, absentmindedly pushing back the locks of hair that forever escaped out of his braid. “Well, only one way to know.”

“Wait,” Jerow reached for Efran’s arm. He glanced behind him toward the encampment they’d wandered away from. The trees obscured it. Unless others were stretching restless legs while the elders deliberated the day’s route over morning tea, no one would know where they are. “Shouldn’t we tell someones?”

“Why? So they open a whole new round of discussions about who should be allowed to go down there first and at what auspicious hour?”

Jerow had to admit Efran had a point. If the elders knew about this, they’d probably find reason to forbid it, and if they didn’t know about this, they’d forbid it all the more. Probably claim ABC and CBC.

“Advice Before Carelessness” and “Caution Before Curiosity” were endlessly drilled and just as often resented. How was anyone to learn anything new or do anything exciting if inevitable delays always took precedent to investigation?

Still, he wondered if in this particular case there was merit to at least asking before launching oneself into a crack in the ground. They were, after all, in what everyone knew were haunted territories. He looked around again, almost hoping for someone to stop them.

“Forget the ABC!” Efran dropped his feet onto the steps and used his arms to brace against the narrow walls. “I want to see! Stick to your letters or come with me!”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Cryptography

https://crimsonprose.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/no-junk-mail-1.jpg?w=640&h=427

 

“How would this work, exactly?”

Jason shrugged and bent to scratch a bug-bite on his ankle, shaggy mane covering his face.

Mark narrowed his eyes. “Seriously, Man, who’d put a mailbox on a crypt?”

Jason straightened, and not for the first time, Mark couldn’t help but think of puppets with too many strings and too few fingers to operate them. Everything about Jason was too long, too lanky, too loose. It was as if someone had forgotten to tighten the screws in his friend’s joints. He’d known Jason since Second-grade, yet something about seeing his classmate’s movements in this setting, woke a bell of alarm in Mark’s belly.

He moves like a mummy, he realized. Shuddered. Shook it off.

“My Granny says some use it,” Jason replied, oblivious.

“For real?”

The tow-headed boy nodded. “Requests for revenge, mostly, she says. After all, it is the crypt of a mass-murderer.”

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Shadow Path

shadow path OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

He took the path in shadow, and it seemed he was forever chasing sunlight as it progressed across the crater faster than his feet could carry him.

Bone-dry tired as he was.

It was better, he supposed, to be in the shadow. He was, he knew, perilously close to collapse.

Still the sun called to him. The shimmer played a trick upon his eyes and he craved the light even as he knew to fear it.

He’d been crossing deserts for what felt like a millennia of a parched destiny.

In linear time it had not been even quite a week …

Since he took the path of shadow.

In life. In hope of refuge. In this.

The sun slunk lower, further elongating the darkened tide of baked dirt, spreading to gobble up the fast receding patch of light.

He’d need to make camp soon.

One time had been plenty to be taken by surprise.

He knew.

Shadow will not wait long to turn into pitch dark.

 

 

 

For Terri’s Sunday Stills: Path

 

 

 

The Apprentice

The monochrome image shows the base of a tree with a hole, like a doorway, through its base...

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“It requires one step through.”

She squinted at the trunk. “I can see the other side.”

“So it would seem.”

She circled the tree and peeked through the opening. “It is as I said. I can see your legs.”

“I’m sure you believe you can.”

His calm voice infuriated her, but she knew that getting riled up will only lead to another long lesson in teaching her self-control.

She breathed.

He nodded.

She turned away from him and breathed again and then counted to ten for good measure. She could almost imagine him chuckling, though she knew he probably would not give her the satisfaction of seeing him react that way. Still, she could feel his amusement. It had been the hardest thing for her. His mild dismissing mockery. It was a constant reminder that she was a mere neophyte swimming furiously upstream in hope of getting even the smallest measure of trust, let alone recognition.

Why did he take her on when he had so little regard for her?

She circled the tree one more time. In part to move some of her agitation, but also to use the trunk as some shelter from her mentor’s scrutiny. She knew what her eyes told her: A hole in a tree, a gap she could toss a pebble through (not that she’d dare, now that he told her what it was), certainly of no size to fit a person.

She also knew that eyes can lie.

Still she resisted.

“Perhaps you aren’t ready.”

In spite of herself she felt her fingers clench. She hated when he did that. It made her feel like a child to be goaded.

Perhaps I am not, she retorted in her mind.

“Indeed, perhaps you’re not.”

Her eyes flew to meet his. She had suspected for some time that he could read her mind, and it felt like someone’s wandering hands rifling through her underwear drawer.

“I could read it in your eyes,” he noted, confirming rather than reassuring.

“What if I go through with it?” she sighed. She felt not so much resigned as she did defeated. He always got his way in the end. She could flail about and delay and prolong the path and belabor the process, but inevitably he got her to do things as he’d wanted. Half the time she thought his goal was to get her to where she would no longer resist him, while half the time she felt that the day she ceased rebelling would be the day he tell her that she’d failed completely.

Even now he did not answer till she asked again.

“You will see what there is for you to see.” He lifted his hand to indicate it was time for her to suspend all judgement, ignore her perceptions, and walk through the tree that he said was a portal.

“Is this the last test?” she fretted.

At that he chuckled. “It is never the last test …”

As she turned toward the tree she heard him add in a small voice that perhaps was made with mind, not larynx, “not for you, not for me.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

It’s The Tropics

Photo prompt © Susan Eames

 

“How long has he been sitting there?”

Brody shrugged. “Was there when I got here.”

Linda glanced at her husband’s torso. Brody had two hues: pasty-white or lobster-red, and it took him about an hour to transform from one to the other. He was reaching lobster status. At least an hour, then.

“What’s he doing?”

Brody scratched under his shades, and Linda noted to herself that his face was following his chest’s example. “On the phone?”

“Put your shirt on, Captain Obvious. But why there? Is he watching for something?”

“It’s the tropics, Dear. Pirates, runaway coconuts, or tsunamis.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictoneers

 

Echoes

nrd-1002460-unsplash

Photo: NRD at Unsplash

 

They’ve left the fridge door open.

The cool pooled close,

Breathing light

Into the space

As if the halo of it

Could be

Mistaken

For the life

That no longer

Offered heartbeat

In these rooms

That still echo

With the sounds

Of “please don’t!

Oh please!

Please!

Not the kids!”

 

 

 

(256 characters)

For Twittering Tales #136

 

Waterproof

Girl on Bank CCC25

 

“How come she’s not wet?” Ricky whispered.

Tim shrugged, but his own eyes were round.

The two were lying on the bluff above the pond on damp bellies, and passing a pair of miniature binoculars between them. Tim’s Nan would have his hide if she found out he’d ‘borrowed’ them, but Nan was dosing after an early toddy … And anyway, they needed the binoculars to spy on Gertrude, their new neighbor, who they suspected was a covert operator, or a witch, or both.

“She’s been sitting there forever,” Ricky groaned. Spying was a lot more glamorous in movies. And less muddy. “I’m soaked. How come she’s not wet?”

Tim fiddled with the binoculars. The dials didn’t work much but it made him feel important, if only because he forbade Ricky to touch them. “Must be she used spells. To make her waterproof.”

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge: #25

 

 

Tut’s Trough

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“It’s been here since time before time,” Marty’s voice rose in self-importance.

“I don’t think Mammoths would agree,” Donna deadpanned. She was tired and the tour-de-woods was becoming tedious. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Marty. She did. Or at least, she had … before he’d unleashed his inner Know-it-all in what he appeared to consider some form of seductive foreplay. It did the opposite for her.

To be fair, she’d always claimed men’s minds could be just as attractive as their bodies.

The key being ‘as important’ she sighed to herself, not the sole importance.

Marty, oblivious, nodded. “Mammoths didn’t need troughs,” he added pedagogically. “They weren’t domesticated.”

Donna slapped at some buzzing insect on her arm. The noise ceased. She’d slap away Marty’s patronizing tone, too, if she didn’t so abhor violence. These days.

The very thought stirred guilt. It wasn’t his fault she was there. It wasn’t his fault she was broken and that time hadn’t ever been kind to her kin.

She forced herself to breathe and glanced at the moss-covered structure in an attempt at interest, only to be mortified when the first thought through her mind was how much it resembled a sarcophagus and how peaceful it would be to lie in one for all eternity.

Or until some form of grave-robbers came.

She shuddered.

“You okay?” Marty’s voice filtered through her distress. “You look as though you’d seen a ghost!”

How little you know, Donna thought. “I’m fine,” she said.

The line between his eyebrows smoothed and he gestured grandly toward the vessel. “Some say it is haunted,” he leaned close to her and whispered a mockery of suspense, “for how this simple trough tricks the vulnerable into thinking it resembles King Tut’s tomb.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt

Dastardly Display

IMG_1432 (2)

Photo Credit: Rick Spaulding

 

“Which one’s yours?”

Mary shrugged.

“C’mon, which one?”

There was a moment’s hesitation before she shrugged again, and I grinned. Perhaps she wanted me to guess.

I took another look at the display. Mary was talented enough to create any of those pumpkins, but she wasn’t one to think outside the box. So maybe not the clown or minion. Did she even know about ninja turtles? I pointed at the shark.

She shook her head, and I was about to guess again when I noticed how tightly she held on to the edge of her blouse. Mary was taciturn but not prone to nervousness.

“Is everything okay?”

Her chin was halfway into a nod when she paused and her upper lip trembled.

A ball formed in the center of my chest. She’s scared, I realized as my body mirrored hers. Suddenly all I wanted was to get her out of there.

“Forget the silly display. Let’s get some air and you can tell me what happened.”

“But it is the display,” Mary murmured, her eyes darting to the table. “I’d made a unicorn. I came early to set up and…” she shuddered, “… I saw the clown eat it.”

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge